Saturday, October 24, 2020 9:30 am - 1:15 pm
Tina Rivers Ryan / Albright-Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo), Formerly Columbia University
Could you name the four most important paintings in Western art? That is, the ones that most influenced the course of art, or history, or both? (Perhaps you’re thinking about Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling, or Leonardo’s Last Supper?) While a fun exercise, there is no definitive list of the “most important” paintings—or the most beautiful, or the most famous, or the most valuable. And even if we could identify the “most important” paintings, it would not necessarily answer the more profound questions we might ask: namely, why has painting played so central a role in Western culture for centuries, and why does it continue to be the most popular medium for artists working today?
Covering six centuries of painting in about sixty minutes, this lecture looks at four indisputable masterpieces that exemplify how paintings communicate ideas and shape how we see the world. In short, these are paintings that every art lover should see if they want to understand art—and that everyone who doesn’t love art should see if they want to fall in love with it. The paintings include:
An art historian by training, Dr. Tina Rivers Ryan is currently Assistant Curator of contemporary art at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. She holds a BA from Harvard, three Master’s Degrees, and a PhD from Columbia, and has taught classes on art at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, the Pratt Institute, and Columbia, where she was one of the top-ranked instructors of the introduction to art history, “Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art.” A regular critic for Artforum, her writing has also appeared in periodicals such as Art in America and Art Journal, and in catalogs published by museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Tate. As a public speaker and scholar, Dr. Ryan has delivered lectures on topics ranging from Michelangelo to Warhol in more than 50 cities internationally.
David Helfand / Columbia University
All the colors of the rainbow are but a tiny fraction of the "colors" of light the Universe sends us. Over the past 75 years, astronomers have been busy opening new windows on the cosmos by building telescopes and cameras that allow us to see all of these colors, revealing new phenomena previously unimagined. Very recently, we have opened entirely new channels of information by detecting gravity waves and by seeing the unseeable: directly imaging black holes. All of these messengers from the cosmos travel at the velocity of light, but even at this enormous speed, they take millions, or even billions of years to reach us. As a consequence, we are always seeing the past. Far from being a disadvantage, however, this allows us to read our history directly by looking out to objects at different distances.
We can watch stars being born, living out their lives, and then dying in spectacular explosions that produce the elements from which we are made as well as neutron stars and black holes. We can watch how galaxies form and grow by gobbling up their neighbors. And we can map the nearest million galaxies and trace them back to the tiny fluctuations in the early Universe from which they emerged. Replete with colliding galaxies and a fly-through of the Universe set to the Blue Danube waltz, this lecture provides one-stop shopping for a comprehensive tour of all of space and time — or at least of the whole 4% we actually understand.
David Helfand has been a Professor of Astronomy at Columbia University for 42 years where he served as chair of the Department for nearly half that time. He is also the former President of the American Astronomical Society and of Quest University Canada, and currently serves as Chair of the American Institute of Physics. He has received the Columbia Presidential Teaching Award and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates. He is the author of the new book, “A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age.”
Sam Potolicchio / Georgetown University
As is well known, America’s founding political commitments were to democracy and the rule of law. Some have described them as the soul and spirit of our nation. And over the generations, citizens have given their lives to preserve those commitments. But over time it appears that their meanings have changed and settled “truths” are open to new interpretations. Could it be this is be a symptom rather than a cause of what some see as our current crisis? Does America face an erosion of public faith in long taken-for-granted aspects of our political life?
This class will address those questions through the lens of next year’s presidential primaries and general election. Currently several candidates are vying for an opportunity to challenge President Trump. Professor Potolicchio will discuss leading candidates and access their strengths and weaknesses in the context of the party convention and platform, personality, organization, and fundraising.
Sam Potolicchio is Director of Global and Custom Education at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. He is also a Distinguished University Professor, Department Chairman and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Political Science at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and the President of the Preparing Global Leaders Forum. He was named one of “America’s Best Professors” by the Princeton Review, Future Leader of American Higher Education by the Association of Colleges and Universities, and winner of the OZY Educator Award as one of the six outstanding American educators. He created and designed the first undergraduate degree in Global Governance and Leadership in English in the Russian Federation where he serves as Academic Director. Professor Potolicchio has also been a visiting professor at New York University.